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Albanese: abandon Morrison’s eugenicist approach to COVID response
The government has the power to implement simple changes to prevent the spread of COVID among people in poverty.
People in poverty are again being ignored by our government as the latest COVID wave is bearing down upon us. The government’s decisions will kill people.
Included below: comments from Antipoverty Centre spokesperson Jay Coonan and crisis line contact information
COVID deaths are four times higher in the lowest socioeconomic areas;1 excluding us from pitiful support and unnecessarily forcing people on JobSeeker into the community is nothing but a continuation of Morrison’s eugenicist policies.
Winter is the worst time to be inflicting cruel policies on people who rely on Centrelink to live, particularly with our health system under immense strain.
The Antipoverty Centre calls on the government to adopt an evidence-based approach and protect those of us most likely to die from this disease:
Suspend “mutual” obligations penalties and direct all (un)employment services providers not to require any in-person activities, including job agency appointments, Work for the Dole, volunteering and training that expose people to risk.
Remove eligibility restrictions on the Pandemic Leave Payment that mean paid workers who receive some income support are not excluded and can have lost income replaced when they are sick or required to isolate.
Extend the program to provide free RATs to concession card holders, remove the cap on the number of RATs that can be accessed, and include people on low incomes who do not have a concession card. Provide free N95 masks as part of the program.
Implement a supplement for all social security recipients that provides the resources we need to survive spiralling inflation and protect our health.
Quotes attributable to Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and JobSeeker recipient Jay Coonan
We can’t afford to heat our homes or put food on the table. We certainly can’t afford RAT tests and masks, let alone the increasing travel costs many are forced to pay to get to a provider, or healthcare if we need it.
People in paid work can’t absorb the cost of lost income, and it’s disgraceful they are being discriminated against by exclusion from the pandemic leave payment.
Provider profitability must not take precedence over the safety of people who are forced to do “mutual” obligations, nor that of staff who work in (un)employment services system.
These parasites shouldn’t be allowed to rake in billions of public money to brutalise those of us living in poverty at any time, but even the government itself has admitted that a penalty suspension will not affect “provider viability”.
It is disgusting that in the midst of a pandemic the government still forces the extraordinary number of disabled people, single parents and older people to do these activities, pushing them into potentially life threatening situations. Even if they insist we continue with pointless tasks, meetings can easily and safely be conducted over the phone.
The department and providers have forced people to travel hundreds of kilometres to attend appointments under threat of losing their meagre Centrelink payment.
As the abysmal rollout of Workforce Australia continues, we reiterate our call to government to full suspend “mutual” obligations penalties for at least 90 days. Despite our repeated efforts to raise our concerns with the employment minister we have had no response other than a pathetic letter of talking points that do not address the issues we have raised about Workforce Australia or provider behaviour.
No more excuses, people are suffering under Tony Burke’s watch and he has the power to alleviate widespread distress at the stroke of a pen by suspending penalties.
We did not have high hopes of our lives improving under the Albanese government, but the fact that Labor’s response to this COVID wave appears to leave us even worse off is abhorrent.
Prime minister, we do not deserve to be sacrificed. Act now to protect us.
Media contact: 0403 429 414 / media at antipovertycentre.org
Crisis support and counselling services
If you need support you can seek guidance, counselling or crisis help from the below organisations or talk to someone you trust.
Suicide Call Back Service – general: 1300 659 467
SANE Australia – general: 1800 187 263
13YARN – for First Nations people: 13 92 76
National Counselling and Referral Service – for disabled people: 1800 421 468
Headspace – for young people: 1800 650 890
QLife – fo LGBTQIA+ people: 1800 184 527
Full Stop – for people who have experienced sexual harassment and assault: 1800 385 578
Embrace Mental Health – multilingual service: https://embracementalhealth.org.au
MensLine – for men: 1300 789 978
Brother to Brother – for First Nations men: 1800 435 799
About the Antipoverty Centre
The Antipoverty Centre was established in May 2021 by people living on Centrelink payments to counter problems with academics, think tanks and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.
We have deep expertise in poverty, disadvantage and unemployment, because we live it. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people living in poverty are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.
The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.